Friday, March 9, 2012


Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Jiro Dreams of Sushi On the basement level of a Tokyo subway station, a small ten-seat sushi-only restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro (すきやばし次郎) is hailed as the best sushi restaurant in the world by the culinary critics. Despite its modest outlook, it's not easy to taste the 20-piece-chef's-choice sushi dinner at the price of minimum ¥30,000 per person (close to $400), without drinks. You can't just get off the subway and walk in its door to eat—the earliest reservation is months away.

Behind the counter of this precious restaurant, the master who creates the perfect sushi is 85-year-old Jiro Ono (小野 二郎). He is the subject in David Gelb's mouthwatering feature directorial debut "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" (USA 2011 | in Japanese | 81 min.). This dazzling documentary peeks into the kitchen of Sukiyabashi Jiro, as well as Jiro Ono's life, and reveals Ono's exquisite art of making delicious sushi and his philosophy of living an accomplished life.

The quiet, self-assured, authoritative, and observant Jiro Ono has been cooking since he was nine year old, and it doesn't seem that he will stop making sushi any time soon. People around him, from chefs to customers, probably admire him as much as they fear him.

If you think making sushi is putting a piece of raw fish on top of a rice ball, this film will show you that can't be any further from the truth. It shows how Jiro leads the team, including Jiro's 50-year-old elder son Yoshikazu and a few young hard-working expediters, to prepare each day's sushi special, with miraculous precisions and impeccable details.

They chose the best ingredients with highest quality, and maintain a robust consistency. The restaurant's rice supplier won't even sell his rice to Hyatt Hotel because he thinks only Jiro knows how to cook his rice. Their painstaking effort in pursuing the absolute perfection in all aspects of making sushi is astonishing. There is no doubt that they love their profession passionately and take great pride for what they make. That perhaps is the most important ingredient in making the delicacy.

A scene from JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

When each piece of sushi is laid in front of a customer, although it's merely an image on the screen, I feel as if I can smell and taste the piece of art. When Mozart is playing in the background, it's nothing short of dramatic and operatic. And, here we are talking about sushi, made by Jiro.

Despite some touches of Jiro's background and his family history, the female family members are noticeably missing in the film. I can't help but wondering what their roles are when these men dedicate all their time and passion to sushi making. And what sacrifice their family members have to make, if any, to support these men to succeed?

This film is an eye-opening experience about sushi as well as those masters who make them. It makes me question what I have been eating these years that I call sushi.

Jiro Ono once said: "You have to fall in love with your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill." This statement seems a perfect reflection of his life, judging from what he puts on a plate.

"Jiro Dreams of Sushi," a Magnolia Pictures release, opens on Friday, March 9, 2012 in New York, on Friday March 16, 2012 in Los Angeles, and om Friday March 23 at Bay Area theaters.

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